Travel group bosses gain after failure

THE former finance director of Europe’s largest tour operator has pocketed a £757,000 share deal just weeks after he stepped down over a £117m black hole in the firm’s accounts.

Paul Botwell, who exited TUI Travel in October, gained from a share payout to five senior directors amounting to £4.9m on 30 December.

Chief executive Peter Long also gained from the arrangement, which comes on top of a £3m share payout in February and in addition to salary, cash bonuses and pension fund top-ups.

The operator, which owns the Thomson and First Choice brands, said last night the deal was not linked to financial performance this year, instead forming part of a three-year reward scheme relating to 2007 performance.

Botwell, 42, left the company after an IT error led to an accounting discrepancy. The glitch came following the firm’s acquisition of First Choice in 2007, when two computer systems were brought together.

Although the impact was initially downplayed, the firm’s auditor KPMG found £117m of “irrecoverable balances” lost in an accounting black hole.

Yet a dispute between the operator and KPMG led to the two parting ways, with PricewaterhouseCoopers expected to take over following TUI’s general meeting early next month.

TUI moved to write off the amount, which resulted in a reduction in profit from £443m to £401m for the year to 30 September 2009, with a further £5m hit in the year to 30 September 2010.